Getting a Masters of Business Adminstration (MBA) degree can give you the knowledge to kick your small company up many notches on the sophistication scale. But stepping away from your business to be a full-time student in a traditional two-year MBA program just isn't reality. Don't give up your aspiration for a higher education – business schools now offer these alternatives for busy small-business managers: Executive MBA Online or distance MBA Low-residency or part-time MBA Spend less time in class, get the same degree Most universities now offer an Executive MBA program (EMBA), which requires far less class time — often compressing courses to one day a week. All participants are expected to spend the rest of their week at full-time professional positions. Study from home or office For those business owners who don't have the time or inclination to head to a classroom every few days, an online MBA — also called distance learning — has become a viable option. Split your time between home and class. Low-residency degree programs typically involve spending a few days each semester on campus, and the rest at home completing coursework. Part-time MBAs take longer to earn, but require fewer courses each semester. Don't overlook management programs for entrepreneurs Although they don't grant a Master of Business Administration degree, if you're primarily after business skill-building, there are a number of high-powered entrepreneurial programs that might fit the bill. Wharton Programs for Working Professionals, UCLA's Management Development for Entrepreneurs, or Columbia University's Entrepreneurship Program. Start preparing now One of the challenges of the MBA is getting into the school of your choice; a lot depends on how you present yourself in your application essay.And you'll need to carefully look at how you'll afford the program and the lost-time to your business. Make sure the MBA program you enroll in has courses that will meet your specific training needs, whether that's retail management, entrepreneurship, or consulting, for example. In addition to evaluating the reputation and course offerings of various schools, look at the backgrounds of the teaching staff and student body with whom you will have the opportunity to network and learn. In order to give your courses the attention they'll require, you may want to start planning how you can delegate more of your daily responsibilities.